26 March 2010

Today, I received a birthday greeting from our dear Paul Sunters, the Managing Photo Editor of the WWF Global Photo Network! It is my one year blog anniversary since writing my first entry! Imagine that! I went back to that first entry and thought, “where has the time gone?” And yet we’ve done so much and met so many great people. Thank you Paul for giving us this job. For knowing we were the best people to do it. For being our cheerleader throughout this marathon. This entry is dedicated to you!

Now back to tuna . . .

18 March 2010

We were definitely back in good ‘ol Philippines. Who but happy Filipinos will think up of a community activity such as a Tuna Festival? The Whale Shark Festival in Donsol was the first non-religious festival the Philippines ever had. I’ll bet the Tuna Festival is the second and aptly scheduled within the 40 days of Lent or Kuwaresma – when religious Catholics abstain from meat and eat only vegetables and fish on Lenten Fridays!

The first out of thirty tuna floats paraded throughout the township of Mamburao!

The first out of thirty tuna floats paraded throughout the township of Mamburao!

We were picked up from Apo Reef Club at 3am in the morning to reach Mamburao in time for the street parade of 30 fresh tunas.  Alya our expedition writer was with us and off we went in the wee hours of the morning trying hard to sleep to no avail as the horrendous roads were unpaved and bumpy all the way for three hours.

The event is named “Tone-Toneladang Tuna Festival 2010″ and this is only the second year it is celebrated. Mamburao is a most recent success story for WWF Philippines. This town is the first in the Philippines to receive an EU certification for conforming to all standards set by the EU for exporting tuna. And as such, the town celebrates.

Young teenagers dance for hours in the morning heat. It was all about tuna

Young teenagers dance for hours in the early morning heat. It was all about tuna

The back view of the dancers - shields of tuna made with water buckets!

The back view of the dancers – shields of tuna made from water buckets!

Project Manager John Manul of WWF Philippines is in charge of the Sablayan Climate Change project and the new Mamburao tuna project. He had the important job of judging the best tuna float being paraded and boy, were they unique!

John Manul Sablayan Project Manager WWF-Philippines judges a tuna float with has a squid dangling as bait in front of the fresh tuna's mouth

John Manul (R), Sablayan Project Manager WWF-Philippines judges a tuna float which has a squid dangling as bait in front of the fresh tuna’s mouth

Our personal all time favorite - a school of tuna! How fantastic is this?

Our personal all time favorite – a school of tuna! The big teacher tuna even has a teaching stick. And the little baby tunas on their school chairs – how fantastic is this?

We met with the young mayor Bambi Villarosa and he sneaks out of the big event to have a photo opportunity with us and our big panda flag.

R-L Beside me is Mayor Bambi Villarosa and beside him is John Manul, then Lito Tiongson of Sablayan, new Mamburao staff and finally Alya Honasan

R-L Beside me is Mayor Bambi Villarosa and beside him is John Manul, then Lito Tiongson of Sablayan, new Mamburao staff and finally Alya Honasan

The floats are just too funny. Here's a tuna with shades and beach wear getting a summer tan

The floats were just too funny. Here’s a tuna with shades and beach wear getting a summer tan. Oh and not to forget the pink poodle . . .

We met up in Manila with Jose Ingles who is fondly known as Jingles. Jingles is an important man to know in the fisheries business. He is WWF’s Tuna Strategy Leader and we were so lucky to hook up with him to learn more about tuna. We rendezvoused in Manila’s Farmer’s Market (of course) and had a quick photo session in the tuna fish section of the market.

Jingles talks to a fish vendor about his tuna sales

Jingles talks to a fish vendor about his tuna sales

Then Jingles brought us to a modest sized tuna processing facility close to the airport. This facility has the first EU certification and the tunas here come from Mamburao.

Jingles checks the fresh frozen tuna about to be prepared for filleting

Jingles checks the fresh frozen tuna about to be prepared for filleting

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